The last time Masahiro Tanaka took a loss, Gary Sanchez was the Yankees’ catcher, Tyler Austin was the starting first baseman and the Yankees were a .500 team.
That was on April 17, and in the ensuing 16-plus weeks, Sanchez went on the disabled list, Austin was traded to Minnesota for pitcher Lance Lynn, the Yankees went on a 64-34 run and Tanaka went 7-0.
That unbeaten streak ended Friday night at Yankee Stadium. With three home runs from their rookie first baseman Ronald Guzman, the Texas Rangers pounded Tanaka and the Yankees, 12-7.
“You’re going to have ones like that every now and then,” Yankees Manager Aaron Boone said of Tanaka’s performance. “They fouled off a ton of pitches all night and eventually made him pay.”
Tanaka struggled with a high pitch count and a longtime weakness — surrendering the long ball. Over five innings, he matched his season highs in runs allowed (six) and home runs given up (three) in a start.
Two of those home runs came in the fourth inning, first a two-run shot by Adrian Beltre for the 469th homer of his career, then, two batters later, Guzman’s first of the night, a solo blast into the right-field seats. Beltre also drove home two runners with a double in the eighth, and he ended up with four runs batted in.
“I think my splitter was especially not good tonight,” Tanaka said. “It didn’t have any good movement. I’m not here to explain everything, but I have an idea what was wrong. I’ll make an adjustment for my next start. It’s not going to be there all the time.”
Guzman’s second homer, a much longer one, came when he led off against Tanaka in the sixth, ending the Yankees starter’s work for the night. Guzman’s third home run, another solo shot, came off reliever A.J. Cole in the seventh. It was the first three-home run game by a Ranger since Beltre hit that many on Aug. 12, 2012.
Guzman, who now has 12 home runs in 86 games this season, had not homered since July 15, a stretch of 52 at-bats. It was the second straight night of six homers at Yankee Stadium, but unlike on Thursday, when the home team hit five, the Yankees were outdone, 4-2.
The loss ended a four-game winning streak for the Yankees and cost them a game in their American League East race with the first-place Boston Red Sox, who rallied from an 8-3 deficit to beat the Baltimore Orioles, 19-12. The Yankees are now nine games behind Boston, and they were four games ahead of the Oakland A’s in the wild-card race pending the outcome of Oakland’s game against the Angels in Anaheim.
Tanaka (9-3, 4.08 earned run average) has allowed 22 homers this season, the most of any Yankees starter. (He allowed 35 last season.) The six runs he gave up Friday matched his season high established on April 11 in a 10-7 Yankees win against the Red Sox.
“His splitter didn’t have that downward tilt that it should have,” catcher Austin Romine said. “It stayed straight, and a couple of them got hit out.”
Tanaka’s outing reversed what the Yankees had seen as a promising trend: Since allowing three home runs in a win against the Orioles on June 2, Tanaka had surrendered just four home runs in his next six starts.
A Yankees lineup minus Neil Walker, who hit two home runs on Thursday, struggled against the left-handed Mike Minor, who started the game with an 8-6 record but a 4.53 earned run average. Through five innings, the Yankees managed just three hits — two singles, one of them an infield hit, and Brett Gardner’s 10th home run of the season, a solo shot in the fifth.
But they rallied for three runs in the sixth, one scoring on a ground-rule double by Miguel Andujar and two on a bloop single by Luke Voit, Walker’s replacement in the lineup.
Romine drove in the Yankees’ final three runs with a solo homer in the seventh and a two-run single in the eighth.